Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members are seeking the solidarity of international unions as they continue strike action at logistics giant Qube in Newcastle over the company’s attempt to cut their pay by up to 10.5 per cent.
Wharfies went on strike today and may be off until Friday at Qube’s bulk and general operation.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said Qube is deliberately picking a fight with its Newcastle workforce given 15 other sites across the country have new agreements with pay rises and while Melbourne is still to be finalized, workers will receive a pay increase.
“Newcastle wharfies have been singled out by Qube to cop this absurd pay cut, while 16 other sites across Australia will receive a pay rise,” Mr Smith said.
“If the company terminates their existing agreement, which the company has threatened, the Qube workforce has decided unanimously not to return to work until a new deal is struck.”
Smith has written to the International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) to highlight wharfies’ concerns over the company’s bizarre decision to pick a fight in Newcastle.
“Despite achieving pay increases and good outcomes nationally in 15 of these agreements, Newcastle has headed down a path of considerable confrontation,” the letter says.
“In Newcastle the company sought a 10.5 per cent pay cut, citing port competition as the basis, despite all labour being fully utilised and productive.
“The members have rejected this and had no option but to take strike action. There have now been bans and limitations for around a month and there have been three stoppages and these continue in a rolling fashion for the rest of the week.
“The company finally moved on the 10.5 per cent wage cut, moving their position to a 6 per cent cut. Our action has now moved the company even further and Qube are now saying they want a two year wage freeze. This is still unacceptable to the members whose comrades in 16 other ports will receive pay increases.”
Smith said any messages of solidarity from the ITF or affiliates to these comrades in struggle would be greatly appreciated and would be read out on the workers assembly at the port.
“We seek only messages of support to the workers and condemnation of Qube for their aggressive anti-worker stance at this stage,” he said.
MUA Newcastle Branch Secretary Glen Williams said the company appears to have the sinister intent of terminating the existing enterprise agreement, effectively quashing 25 years of bargaining history and enforcing up to a 40 per cent wage cut and slashing of conditions.
“These savage pay cuts are a slap in the face to workers who have received no pay rise in the past two years despite considserable productivity increases,” Williams said.
“Our stevedoring workforce is already among the most flexible in Australia and Qube needs to keep up its side of the bargain by rewarding them for their hard work rather than try to rip them off.
“Our members have no choice but to down tools over this attack on their jobs and standards of living, which we know ultimately is an attempt to scrap their workplace agreement.”
Media Contact: Warren Smith 0400 368 945 or Glen Williams 0401 271 740